Disaster preparednessBy Rafael Castillo M.D.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After the massive flooding due to Tropical Storm “Ondoy” several years ago, Sherma Benosa, a former editor of H&L ( Health & Lifestyle) magazine, makes sure she always has a rope in their house. This is part of her disaster preparedness plan.
“Disasters can happen to anyone, anytime. I don’t want to be caught unprepared,” she says.
She recalls that during the massive flash floods of Ondoy, she, her father and a 3-year-old nephew, had to swim in neck-deep flood water to get to safety. “After that experience, I had become more safety- and preparedness-obsessed,” she says.
Since then, she has drawn out “escape plans” from her apartment and prepared all the stuff she and others would need to get them to safety. The rope is just one of the many “escape tools” she bought.
Sherma stresses that disaster preparedness is not only a responsibility to be undertaken by the government. It is also a function of families and individuals. “During emergency, the only way we could help in rescue efforts is by getting ourselves to safety on our own, so that rescue workers could focus on others who may be in worse situation,” she explains.
The typhoon season is once again around, and as many notice, they seem to be getting stronger and stronger. One can indeed be doing one’s family a big favor by making sure they’re adequately covered for any emergency just in case it happens. In her article in next month’s issue of H&L, Sherma will share the following emergency preparedness pointers which she herself practices.
1Do preventive measures. Doing preventive measures is the best preparation for any emergency. Ensure that your house is safe, and the tree in your backyard has been trimmed to reduce the possibility of it getting uprooted, or at least minimize the damage it would cause in case it does get uprooted. Buy your groceries beforehand so you wouldn’t have to go out amid strong rains and howling winds and put yourself in danger. Make sure you have flashlights and a battery-operated radio available.
Do preventive maintenance even when no actual forecast has been made. During summer, have your roofs and walls, especially your electric wirings, checked. Many fire breakouts are caused by faulty electrical wiring.
2Put your “Escape Docs” in a ready-to-grab bag. Simply have your important documents (passports, contracts, property titles, IDs, etc.) in a ready-to-grab bag, preferably waterproof. Let everyone in the house know that it is the first thing to be secured in case of emergency—that is, if there is still ample time to grab it and run to safety.
3Prepare emergency kits (clothes, extra IDs,) in a ready-to-grab box. This is so that in case of emergency, you wouldn’t waste time thinking of what things to pack and actually pack them. With your basic things ready, you will have more time to think of other things you need to bring with you, or in case there is no more time, just grab your kit and run to safety.
4Have a disaster/rescue plan for your pets. It makes one feel bad to see in the papers pictures of pets left behind by their owners during flooding. Prepare a carrier that could contain them all.
5If you are not in your place (say you’re in a hotel, workplace, etc.), always take note of emergency exits and where the fire extinguishers are. And it would also be great to discuss with your companions, especially children, your escape plans in case of emergency—where to meet each other or where to go to should you lose each other during the emergency and the chaos that might ensue.
6Don’t panic. Tips 2-5 would be useless if you panic during an actual emergency. In times of disaster, the only way you could increase your likelihood of escape is by not losing your mind. When you lose your mind during emergency, you not only put yourself in more danger but also others. And you might not be able to do the sensible thing to do during emergency.
Well, as they say, it’s better to be prepared than be sorry.